Suzie and Shawn Fadear are shown after opening their new Barriere Timber Mart store in 2014. (Jill Hayward photo)

Suzie and Shawn Fadear are shown after opening their new Barriere Timber Mart store in 2014. (Jill Hayward photo)

Barriere Timber Mart met COVID challenge head on

Barriere Timber Mart’s origin dates back to the late 1950’s, when it was a small hardware store in Barriere, B.C. called Marshall-Wells Hardware. When Shawn and Suzie Fadear purchased the store in 2010, it was an IRLY Building Centre.

Shawn also owns a retaining wall construction company – Gabion Wall Systems Ltd – “that keeps me busy all throughout B.C. and Alberta. I’m 60 now and as I approached retirement, I knew I didn’t want to stay in construction.” Shawn knew the owners of Irly Building Centre very well and looked at it as an opportunity to branch out into a complimentary business where they could stay active and be “right at home. Our Gabion Wall Systems Ltd. crew continue to manage the construction business for us.”

“We purchased the store in its original location in downtown Barriere,” says Shawn. “In 2014, we built the new store on Highway 5, which is the Yellowhead Highway that runs through Barriere. So we are right on the highway, just half a kilometre from downtown Barriere.”

Today, the 9,000 sq. ft. store carriers a diverse range of products. “We offer a range of building materials, a large lumber yard, hardware, tools, paint, landscaping products, and basic hardwares. We are very proud of the diversity of products we offer and continue to keep things fresh and adopt to the different consumer demands.”

Like other retailers, Barriere Timber Mart was impacted by the pandemic when it hit in 2020. “The first challenge was how to carry on some form of business and stay open,” said Shawn. “with facts about COVID unknown at the time, roughly half our staff requested layoff. We shortened our operating hours at the time and the remaining staff worked six days a week so we could keep the store open. We are incredibly grateful to the staff that continued on with us. They showed amazing courage and determination under very stressful and uncertain conditions. We could not have done it without them!

“We were able to stay open throughout the pandemic and we had an incredible response from our community. They supported us and, like others in the industry, our sales increased. People in the community didn’t want to drive 60 kilometres away to shop at the big box stores. They were more than happy to stay local.

“People who had never been here before came in and one of the comments we heard often is, ‘I didn’t know you had all this stuff.’ It was really positive. Now they realize they don’t have to go to the city.”

The biggest challenge for the store when the pandemic first occurred was learning how to “keep open safely and protect our staff and customers.” The owners followed all the health guidelines and, eventually, all the laid off staff returned to work, bringing the number of employees to 12. “It was the most stressful time I’ve ever experienced in all my careers because we didn’t know what to expect. Looking back now, we’ve done fine.”

The best part of the business for Shawn is getting to interact with people and look after their variety of needs. “Suzie and I have lived in the valley all our lives. So, we know the people that come into the store and view them as friends and neighbours. We are truly a community store.” As a member of the community the store supports local events like the annual North Thompson Fall Fair and Rodeo and sporting events.

In April of this year, Barriere Timber Mart was named one of the franchise’s top retailers in Canada.

Shawn says the most valuable asset in retail is the customer. “We focus not on why we can’t, but how we can. There are always challenges but you can always try to figure it out and do your best.”

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